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One More Beatles Song, or Should They Just Let It Be?

Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and George Harrison with producer George Martin, from left, at London's Abbey Road studios in 1995.
Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and George Harrison with producer George Martin, from left, at London's Abbey Road studios in 1995. (Associated Press)

"I Don't Want to Lose You," originally intended for the third "Anthology" CD package, was put aside, reportedly because it was not falling together easily and required more writing. The song was ultimately abandoned after critical notices for the first two reunion songs left the trio, especially Harrison, reluctant to venture a third.

Harrison -- who during the mid-'90s "Free as a Bird" sessions morbidly quipped, "I hope someone does this to all my crap demos when I'm dead, making them into hit songs" -- is present on the recording, though it is not known whether just on guitar or also on vocals. He died of cancer Nov. 30, 2001.

Oddly, it was Harrison, known to sometimes speak and sing bitterly about his Beatles years, who first approached Ono about a virtual Beatles reunion.

Ono took the request to heart, selecting unreleased Lennon songs "very carefully," she said, "because these songs were to come from the Beatles. The Beatles will be singing to the world again. The implication of that was tremendous."

She chose "I Don't Want to Lose You" for almost therapeutic reasons.

"I thought, this was a song which would release people from their sorrow of losing John," she said. "By listening to the song, they will eventually be able to release their sorrow and arrive at an understanding that, actually, John is not lost to them. . . . Paul, George and Ringo lost a great friend as well. If they sung this song from their hearts it would have helped many people around the world who felt the same."

If completed, the song would acquire an extra layer of meaning, what with Harrison's loss. Should it be finished? McCartney, Lynne and Emerick are on the record in the affirmative. And so, at least with qualifications, are several Beatles specialists, including Mark Hudson, Starr's close friend and writing and producing partner of his last five albums.

"I'd love to see it happen! Are you kidding?" said Hudson, reached in Los Angeles.

There is a "political" problem, Hudson added, stemming from the fact that it is a Lennon song that would be completed by McCartney, who in recent years objected to Lennon's name on the credit for the McCartney-penned "Yesterday." (He since withdrew the complaint, saying it was poor judgment.) In any case, Hudson added, "if anybody is going to be capable of making an addition to a John Lennon song, it definitely would be Paul McCartney. . . .

"And I think he would write it like a Lennon-McCartney song, I really do. I don't think he would make it too McCartney."

Bill King, editor and publisher of Beatlefan, the oldest Beatles fan publication in the United States, said "naturally I'd like to see it completed" -- though not necessarily as an official Beatles song.

"Whether I'd like it to be released under the name the Beatles depends on the degree of collaboration," said King. "If George played or sang on it and his contributions are kept in the finished version, and if both Ringo and Paul are involved in finishing it up, then I wouldn't have a problem with it being a 'Beatles' release. If it's just Paul finishing it off (and Harrison and/or Ringo are absent), it shouldn't be called the Beatles."

Chris Carter, host of "Breakfast With the Beatles" on KLSX-FM in Los Angeles and a widely recognized authority on the group, had other Beatles priorities. "I would value any song, especially if it was great, performed by John, Paul, George and Ringo, no matter how or when it was recorded," he said. "If Capitol is really looking for some 'new/old' Beatle product to release, they can always release the Beatles' Christmas discs on CD. We've only been waiting for that since 1971!"

The Beatles recorded annual Christmas messages on flexible discs mailed exclusively to members of their fan club. They were compiled in "The Beatles Christmas Album," on the Apple label, which was pressed only for fan club members in 1971.

For now, "I Don't Want to Lose You" has found life as one of three "new" songs Ono presented to "Lennon -- The Musical," which opened last week at the Broadhurst Theater in New York. (The others are a demo of "Cookin' in the Kitchen of Love," which was recorded by Starr in 1978, and a 1980 demo of a breezy, lyrical 1968 ballad titled, "India, India.") Said Don Scardino, writer and director of "Lennon," in a recent interview: " 'I Don't Want to Lose You' may be the saddest, most poignant love song he ever wrote."

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